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The chance of Stephen Curry ever playing for his hometown Charlotte Hornets is approaching zero.
As recently as two years ago, Curry openly discussed the opportunity to finish his career in North Carolina, where he rose to prominence as a prep and college basketball star following his father Dell’s 10-year tenure with the Hornets. The two-time NBA MVP softened on that stance last year. Now, Curry is all but completely rejecting the possibility in a wide-ranging interview on The Bill Simmons Podcast.
“I love the Bay Area, man,” said Curry, who is entering his 10th season on the Warriors after they drafted him seventh in 2009. “The only reason I go home now is if my sister’s getting married or to go play the Hornets for that one game, so I haven’t really been back much. I haven’t put my mind there.”
Simmons wondered if the pull of Charlotte has loosened for Curry now that he’s 30, if Golden State feels more like home now and if the five-time All-Star now feels like he wants to be a Warrior for life.
“For sure I do,” Curry said from Oakland. “This is home. This is where I want to be, for obvious reasons.”
Why sign with the Hornets when you’re working on a dynasty?
Curry didn’t say exactly what those reasons were, but it’s not hard to figure out. The Hornets may be owned by Michael Jordan, but they have been in an almost constant state of rebuilding this century. They have never been considered a contender, haven’t made the playoffs for two years running, and have long had difficulty luring big-name free agents. Meanwhile, the Warriors have won three of the last four NBA titles, look to be a contender for years to come and just added DeMarcus Cousins.
All of this is to say nothing of the lifestyle difference between Charlotte and the Bay Area.
Curry sounded more open to playing in Charlotte four years ago
Questions about Curry’s potential interest in Charlotte first gained real steam in 2014, when he was working on one of the league’s most below-market contracts. He told The Doug Gottlieb Show then:
“I’ve always had thoughts about playing at home, what it would be like. My dad played there for 10 years, and people around the Greater Charlotte area in North Carolina have done a lot for my family growing up, so you always think about it.
“Right now I feel like I’ve got three years left on my deal, so this isn’t going to be an issue for me for a while. I love the Bay Area and where we are as a team trying to win a championship, and that’s what it’s all about. Of course everybody dreams about or thinks about what it’s going to be like to play at home. Obviously if that opportunity comes along it’s a different discussion.”
Since then, he’s won two MVP awards and three NBA championships in Golden State. Curry also made a five-year commitment to the Bay Area in the form of a $201 million contract that should keep him on the Warriors past his 34th birthday. Curry told Simmons he wants to play at least seven more seasons, if not more, because he entered the league wanting to match or exceed his dad’s 16-year NBA career.
Curry left his free agency open to interpretation
In more recent years, Curry started closing the door on the idea of ever playing in Charlotte, although he left it slightly ajar leading up to his 2017 free agency. Prior to the final year of his last contract, he told reporters from Golden State’s training camp, “I want to be back here. I like playing here. That’s it.”
When asked about his impending free agency again early in the 2016-17 season, he told The Wall Street Journal, “It’s hard to see myself anywhere else,” but “curveballs happen all the time,” and then Curry had this exchange with the Observer’s Scott Fowler before a November 2016 trip to Charlotte:
I asked Steph point-blank if he would consider going to Charlotte in the summer of 2017.
“I don’t know,” he said.
He then went on to imply that at an unspecified point earlier in his career a “Steph in Charlotte” scenario might have been more possible, saying “obviously I had a strong tie to Charlotte and would have loved to play there. I’m very comfortable in that city. It’s hard to say exactly what the situation will be this summer.”
Then, within a three-week span in the middle of 2017, Curry won his second title with the Warriors and signed his super-max contract extension in Golden State within hours of free agency opening. Any concern about Curry leaving the only NBA team he had known seemed like misdirection in hindsight.
Now, the possibility seems further in the rearview than ever before. Never say never. Dynasties gets disassembled, the number of players who spend their entire careers in the same city is dwindling, and Curry joked with Simmons that his shooting could help teams spread the floor until he’s 50 years old.
If that were the case and he stays in Golden State, Curry would surpass Dirk Nowitzki’s record of 21 seasons with the Dallas Mavericks at age 42 in 2030, and he’d still have eight years to play in Charlotte. Where he once answered questions about playing for the Hornets with admiration for his hometown team, he now laughs them off, so you can only imagine how he might respond 12 years from now.
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